Regency trial: Dowdall claims Hutch is 'terrorising' his family

The defence's cross-examination of former Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall continued on Friday
Regency trial: Dowdall claims Hutch is 'terrorising' his family

Alison O'Riordan

Ex-Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall has claimed his former co-accused Gerard 'The Monk' Hutch is "terrorising" his family and, pointing towards the Special Criminal Court dock, said he has been hit with "a barrage of more threats and more threats".

Dowdall also told the non-jury court that his 62-year-old mother and his children have received death threats since he decided to turn State's witness and give evidence against Mr Hutch.

"This is why nobody comes in and gives evidence," Dowdall told the Regency Hotel murder trial on Friday.

Under cross-examination for a fourth day, Dowdall told Brendan Grehan SC, defending Mr Hutch, that "in all the time" since he was accused of Kinahan Cartel member David Byrne's murder, "nobody" had "interfered" with his wife and children, but "as soon as I decided to come out and give evidence the level of intimidation has increased".

The ex-politician added: "My mother is being rang by people who she was kind to when kids, telling a 62-year-old woman she's dead, that my children are dead. This is a whole different level and this is why nobody comes in and gives evidence."

Mr Grehan was playing extracts of interviews which Dowdall gave gardaí on May 18th, 2016 and asked the witness on Friday if he now accepted that he had told lies in those interviews.

"I didn't tell lies to gardaí. I couldn't speak in the interviews, I'm speaking now," he said.

Key witness Dowdall, who pleaded guilty to facilitating Mr Byrne's murder, said: "Children as young as ten their lives are under serious threat, they haven't been in school since September and death threats are issued on their Twitter pages.

"The schools won't take them back. My daughter had to leave her job as the company said it's too dangerous to have her coming in and out of work."

The former electrician also told Mr Grehan: "Everything I feared happen has happened, and worse. They had people lined up to come in and lie. The level of pressure people get put under."

Dowdall told the trial on Thursday that he could not say in the interview following his arrest in May 2016 that he knew who was involved in the Regency attack.

"It was a lie out of necessity. My family would have been killed if I said who was involved in the Regency," he added.

Gerard Hutch (59), last of The Paddocks, Clontarf, Dublin 3, denies the murder of Mr Byrne (33) during a boxing weigh-in at the Regency Hotel on February 5th, 2016.

Dowdall told Mr Grehan on Friday that he was "here five days and this is his fifth day" and "all that is happening is you are attacking me and attacking me".

"I've explained why I couldn't speak in the police station," he added.

The barrister replied: "I'm going to keep asking the questions even if you don't care about answering them and want to go off on another monologue. I've a job to do and I'm not going to be put off doing it by you throwing other stuff up in the air."

Dowdall replied: "Everything is in my statement and you haven't even bothered with them." Mr Grehan said he would come on to that.

When counsel put it to Dowdall that he did not have to say anything to gardaí when he was arrested for the murder of Mr Byrne in 2016, the witness said he did not know "a lot of stuff" then.

"No decent man threatens a ten-year-old kid and a 14-year-old kid or gets someone to ring my mother."

'A whole different level'

The barrister also put it to Dowdall that he had blamed "a large part on gardaí, media and some kind of Twitter account that was saying things about you" in those interviews.

"I wasn't blaming the media for what was going on, when in the police station stuff leaked on media sources that would have put my family under threat," he replied.

Mr Grehan asked Dowdall had the threat intensified and the witness replied: "It's a whole different level".

Dowdall agreed that gardaí had asked him about the Regency attack and he had lied by saying he had not been there for six years.

The trial has heard that Dowdall drove his father, Patrick Dowdall to the Regency hotel on the evening before the attack on February 4th and remained there until Patrick Dowdall paid for the room and obtained the room's key cards from reception.

Mr Grehan put it to the witness that gardaí had given him "ample opportunity" in his interviews to say that he had unintentionally or unknowingly booked a room at the Regency Hotel.

"At that time I wasn't told about any hotel room," he said.

Mr Grehan said the interview in May 2016 occurred before Dowdall knew gardaí had found a USB key containing footage of the waterboarding of Alexander Hurley.

"I know there was a massive possibility that gardai found the USB key before ever being arrested for it. I lost it and didn't know where it was," he said.

The court has heard that gardaí found a video of Dowdall torturing Mr Hurley on a USB stick at his home when they raided it while investigating the Regency attack. Dowdall was subsequently jailed for that offence, which was not connected to the Regency shooting.

The lawyer asked Dowdall if it was a lie when gardaí asked if he could remember where he was on February 4th and he said he could not. "I knew where I was on the 4th," Dowdall replied.

"That was a lie?" counsel asked, to which Dowdall said: "I couldn't say where I was on the 4th."

Mr Grehan put it to the witness that gardaí had given him every opportunity to answer questions but that he was wasting their time as he had decided he was going to lie and say he could not remember. "I explained the reasons why," said Dowdall.

In the interview, he told gardaí it had been about five years since he had been in the Regency at a "white collar event".

When Mr Grehan put it to him that was a lie, he said he had been in the car park at the Regency the day before the attack and before that "hadn't been in the Regency".

"So it's half a lie," Mr Grehan said. "No, I was in the car park," Dowdall replied.

Mr Grehan said he had told an "elaborate lie" where he embellished on his account of his last visit to the hotel.

"You knew exactly where you were on the 4th and you decided to lie to the gardaí," Mr Grehan said.

"I knew who was involved in the Regency, certain people, so I couldn't say anything about the Regency," Dowdall said.

Hotel room

In the interview, Dowdall told gardaí he did not know anything about his father going into the hotel room and leaving shortly afterwards before another man with a key card accessed the room and stayed the night.

Dowdall agreed with Mr Grehan that he had told a lie to gardaí when they asked him a very specific question about whether he remembered driving his father anywhere on February 4th and he said he did not

The witness said: "I'm in the mess I'm in as I didn't say anything at the Garda station."

Mr Grehan disagreed and said the witness had chosen to tell gardaí "elaborate lies".

Mr Grehan continued: "You had the right to say nothing and were advised of it, but instead you chose to lie your way out of the situation by pretending you knew nothing about it."

Dowdall replied: "I don't know who stayed in the room".

The barrister told Dowdall he was aware in the interview that his wife had reserved the hotel room with her father's credit card. "I couldn't say anything about the room", he said.

Counsel said Dowdall had engaged with gardaí and told them lies. "The last thing I thought they were going to tell me was that the person involved in the murder stayed in the room," he said.

"Why didn't you say nothing rather than tell lies and lie yourself out of it, it's because you consider yourself to be a convincing liar," said Mr Grehan.

Dowdall replied: "You would say that. You just want to put me in a box and call me a liar, liar, liar; you know more than anybody I couldn't speak in that Garda station."

Counsel said Dowdall had told gardaí in definitive terms that Mr Hutch had never discussed the Regency Hotel or anything like that with him ever. "I had to say that," the witness said.

At one stage, Dowdall told Mr Grehan to "play all the videos" he wanted and that his life was turned upside down at the time and it has not changed.

Dowdall continued: "You have me here five days with one purpose, to put me as a liar".

Mr Grehan said sometimes it is necessary to demonstrate one is a liar and not just say one is. Dowdall said: "I don't think you are demonstrating I'm a liar."

Mr Grehan told the witness: "You lie about everything Mr Dowdall, and you lie as a precaution in case there is something down the road".

Dowdall said when gardaí asked him whether he was in Lifford on February 4th that it was nothing whatsoever to do with the Regency attack.

The lawyer put it to Dowdall that it must have come as a shock to him when gardaí revealed they had "audio on you on March 7th". "Come as a shock to anyone wouldn't it," Dowdall replied.

Mr Grehan told Dowdall there were a lot of things he wanted to run away from, to which Dowdall replied: "So does your client."

"Well he is here and on trial," counsel said.

"I'm answering questions and no one else," Dowdall retorted.

'I'm not going down that road again'

At one point, Mr Grehan told the witness he wanted to "clear up an issue" about Dowdall's uncle Jimmy, with whom counsel said the witness had fallen out.

Dowdall replied: "I'm here to speak about the Regency Hotel and you are dragging up everything else for no other reason. If gardaí want to speak to me, I didn't do it. I'm not going into anything about that."

Mr Grehan said: "But you repeatedly bring it up on the journey on March 7th."

Dowdall accused the barrister of "bringing up stuff" to paint him in a bad picture. The lawyer said it painted him as a liar and showed he was capable of lying.

Mr Grehan went on to say that Dowdall had not personally "shot the shots" into Uncle Jimmy's house, but had got someone else to do it. "I'm not going down that road again, I cleared it up the other day," Dowdall said.

Counsel said Dowdall was recorded on the audio saying: "Jimmy doesn't know 100 per cent that was me.

Asked by Mr Grehan if he said this on the audio recording, Dowdall said: "If it's on the transcripts it was me."

Counsel added: "You told Mr Hutch you had to lie to your uncle Jimmy when he asked you to admit it."

Mr Grehan said Dowdall had been "bragging about the fact that he was so clever", that he would never have admitted it and had to lie.

Dowdall replied: "It was bravado talk, I didn't do anything to do with my uncle."

Mr Grehan told the witness that someone from Sinn Féin had interviewed him about this when he was going for his councillor position. Dowdall said: "We spoke about it and Sinn Féin are fully aware of the background to that and wasn't me. It's nonsense talk, I'm not discussing it."

Dowdall added: "I'm not prepared to go down this road for Mr Grehan's client. He has already sent people to my uncle's home to already get him to come into court.

"I've no enemies before this but every person's name that is mentioned in this court is another set of enemies."

Dowdall said his uncle's house was never "riddled".

Mr Grehan suggested at that point the witness knew full well that his uncle's house was "shot up" and that his uncle had named him as the only person with whom he had a falling out.

Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, interjected and said this was not accurate and the uncle accepted that it was not Dowdall.

Mr Grehan said all the defence had was a statement from Uncle Jimmy, in which he said that the only person he ever had trouble with was his nephew Jonathan.

Pointing towards the dock, Dowdall told the three judges: "I shouldn’t be saying this. There was an argument. My uncle got the Ryans involved. I know what happened. This is wrong, it's more names and enemies to keep him happy over there.

"He’s terrorising my family. If this keeps growing bigger and bigger, I can’t keep doing this. When I ring my wife from prison there’s a barrage of more threats and more threats."

Dowdall will continue in cross-examination on Monday before presiding judge Ms Justice Tara Burns sitting with Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Grainne Malone.

In his direct evidence this week, Dowdall testified that Mr Hutch told him in a park several days after the Regency attack, in or around February 8th, 2016, that he and another man had shot Mr Byrne at the hotel.

The ex-politician testified that the accused said he "wasn't happy about shooting the young lad David Byrne and David Byrne being killed".

'Two big lies'

Asked by prosecution counsel Sean Gillane SC if Mr Hutch had said who had shot Mr Byrne at the Regency Hotel in 2016, Dowdall replied: "He said it was him and 'Mago' Gately".

Mr Grehan, representing Mr Hutch, opened his cross-examination on Tuesday by telling Dowdall that he wanted to be "very clear" that the defence position was that the witness had told "two big lies" to the court, namely that his client had collected keys cards for a room at the Regency Hotel from him and his father on Richmond Road on February 4th, 2016 and that Mr Hutch had "confessed" to him in a park several days later.

Dowdall (44) was charged on April 27th, 2021 with the murder of Mr Byrne at the Regency Hotel but pleaded guilty in advance of the trial to a lesser charge of facilitating the Hutch gang by making a hotel room available for use by the perpetrators the night before the attack. He was jailed by the Special Criminal Court for four years for the facilitation offence.

Following Dowdall's sentence on October 3rd, a nolle prosequi - a decision not to proceed - was entered on the murder charge against the former Dublin city councillor.

The prosecution case is that the late dissident republican Kevin Murray used the hotel room that was booked at the Regency Hotel on the night of February 4th, and that he was the man seen wearing a flat cap when Mr Byrne was killed and that he cooperated with the "tactical team" that raided the hotel on February 5th.

Mr Murray died from motor neurone disease in 2017 before he could be brought to trial.

Dowdall has previous convictions for false imprisonment, threatening to kill and causing serious harm from January 2015.

Mr Byrne, from Crumlin, was shot dead at the hotel in Whitehall, Dublin 9 after five men, three disguised as armed gardaí in tactical clothing and carrying AK-47 assault rifles, stormed the building during the attack, which was hosting a boxing weigh-in at the time.

The victim was shot by two of the tactical assailants and further rounds were delivered to his head and body.

Mr Byrne died after suffering catastrophic injuries from six gunshots fired from a high-velocity weapon to the head, face, stomach, hand and legs.

Mr Hutch's two co-accused - Paul Murphy (61), of Cherry Avenue, Swords, Co Dublin, and Jason Bonney (50), of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock, Dublin 13, have pleaded not guilty to participating in or contributing to the murder of David Byrne by providing access to motor vehicles on February 5th, 2016.

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